“What’s the BEST structure for a podcast? I mean… one that really engages listeners and keeps their attention throughout the episode?”
I am asked that question – and questions like it – all – the – TIME. And while there are no dumb questions, there are questions that haven’t been thought through very well, and that’s ONE of them.
Why? Well, it has to do with the fact that you and I and Mary down the street are all podcasting about different topics and trying to reach different audiences.
I walk you through the logic and practical steps of discovering YOUR best podcast structure, on this episode of Podcastification.
[1:25] The questions I receive all time and why my answer is often “it depends.” [2:01] My walk down main street and how it can help you answer the question yourself [3:10] Who are your ideal listeners? You need to answer that question first [8:09] Look at the top downloaded podcasts in Apple Podcasts – they have differing structures [8:59] How do you discover the structure that will fit your audience? [10:37] The best-practices don’t always translate from one niche to another – so you’ll have to put in some work to figure it out for your niche [13:02] Get out there and talk with your target audience
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Is there a “best” podcast structure? Well, it depends…
I’m sure there are certain ways of organizing and presenting content within your podcast episodes that are more “effective” (whatever that means to you) than other ways of organizing it.
But what I’ve discovered in working with over 100 clients so far is this:
THERE IS NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL podcast structure you can use as a template.
That’s because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reaching niche audiences.
Did you get that?
The operative word is “niche” – which by definition means a very specific subset of people who are interest in a very specific topic.
THOSE particular people are going to respond very differently to one episode framework than they do another.
For example: Would people interested in comic books appreciate a radio-announcer-guy type intro, or would they rather have something fun, creative, and hip? You be the judge.
But if you make the wrong decision, you could be turning OFF the exact people you want to listen to your podcast.
So what do you do? That’s the next point I cover… so stick around (or listen).
Let’s take a walk down main street to learn about podcast structure…
In this episode I decided to do something a bit different. I got out my portable recording setup (which you can hear me describe in detail on episode 86) and took a walk down main street in my little town.
My goal: Consider how each different type of business would go about appealing to its ideal customer.
The first storefront I came upon was for a lawyer’s office.
The important questions to ask when it comes to how a lawyer would go about attracting their clients are things like this…
- Who do lawyers work with?
- What sort of feeling to people want to have when working with a lawyer?
- How can a lawyer communicate trust and confident to prospective clients?
- Would a lawyer’s messaging be slap-stick or serious, or something else?
Do you see what I’m doing? Before I make a conclusion about what makes up a good “advertisement” for a lawyer, I need to first think through what would make a lawyer’s CUSTOMERS feel good about the lawyer.
That might also be done through the way the attorney sets up his/her office:
- Should they work from a card table on a laptop – OR – should there be a large wooden desk and bookshelves?
- Should there be piles of paper everywhere – OR – should the office be clean, neat, and organized in appearance?
Next, I came upon a hair and nail salon.
That’s a personal care service, right? So people coming into this place would most likely be women, they care about their appearance, and they might even enjoy feeling “pampered” to some degree.
So what kind of vibe does the salon need to give off in order to attract those kinds of people?
- And the shop itself should be attractive
Why those things? Because those are the things the salon owner’s CUSTOMERS care about.
Are you getting the point here? You can’t apply any old podcast structure to your episodes because YOUR episodes are going to be aimed at a specific type of person who is very different from the target listener of the person who created the structure you’re considering.
Take a walk down the “main street” of your ideal listeners. Consider carefully what THEY are most interested in and find most helpful.
That’s how you’ll discover the right podcast structure for YOUR particular show.
TO DO: Get to know your listeners
If you want to know what the people you’re trying to serve want your show to be like, you have to ask them.
And you can’t ask them if you don’t know them.
And you can’t get to know them if you don’t hang out where they are.
So get out there and find them!
In person – if your show is centered around a niche where that is possible – or online. Either way, you need to strike up conversations and engage in building relationships with those who are keenly interested in the topics you cover on your podcast.
No podcast structure in the world, no matter how entertaining, can make up for that.
When you start talking with people who naturally talk about what you talk about on your show, you’re going to hear what they really want to know about your topic.
You’ll get ideas for future episodes.
You’ll get a feel for the things they find entertaining and fun and the structural things that might stand in the way to them really benefiting from and enjoying your podcast.
So get out there and do it!
It takes time. It’s hard work. It requires discernment and self-restraint. But it’s worth it.
Yeah – I just said self-restraint.
That’s coming up in the next section… as are my tips for finding the best places to build those relationships.
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Discover your best podcast structure from those who care the most – listeners
If you podcast about topics that lend themselves toward regular in-person meet-ups, take advantage of those.
Find out where they are in your neck of the woods and go. Don’t be shy.
Introduce yourself. Ask lots of questions about the people you meet. Find out how you can add value to them.
That’s a great place to find the very people who can help you figure out this podcast episode structure thing – AND you’ll probably make some good friends in the process too.
But you can do the same thing online too…
The best place I’ve found to connect with people who are interested in the things you are interested in is to search the groups on Facebook.
- Type your main topic into the search bar at the top of Facebook
- Hit “enter”
- Once the search results populate the next page, click on the “groups” heading at the top
- You’ll get more groups than you can shake a stick at that you can ask to join.
ONE TIP to speed up the process:
- Join groups that have BOTH a lot of members AND appear to have a good number of posts being made per day. You can see those stats just under the group name.
One more thing…
In that last main section I said that once you find these groups, you’ll need to exercise self-restraint.
Because your impulse is going to be to do this…
- Find your niche communities
- Join them
- Immediately start saying, “Here’s my podcast! Listen to my podcast! I have a podcast!”
Don’t. Just don’t.
Even online, people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
It’s a tired saying that is nevertheless true.
So get into those communities with a desire to serve, to learn, and to grow – and you’ll discover some of your biggest supporters – and when they discover you have a podcast, you won’t even have to ask them to listen, subscribe, or share.
Once you know your audience, structure issues become way easier to figure out
It really is that simple.
The people you’re speaking to can help you know how to best speak to them – but it takes time and a lot of hard work on your part before they will trust you.
My advice: Put in the time. Expend the effort. CARE for your audience in that way.
You’ll be able to fashion a podcast they hate to miss by doing so.
And you’ll have an asset you didn’t even think about – a listener base who is FOR you and eager to share what you’re doing.